Box Office Guru Preview: Vampire Love to Rule Multiplexes

Also: Bolt scurries into theaters this weekend.

by | November 20, 2008 | Comments

With two big films aimed at distinct audiences hitting theaters on Friday, and some strong titles already in the marketplace, the North American box office is set to sizzle. Summit unleashes the highly anticipated teen drama Twilight while Disney counters with the animated film Bolt which will target families. Ticket sales should once again surge ahead of year-ago levels which will be especially impressive since the Thanksgiving holiday fell on this weekend last year.

For those who have always wished that their high school lab partner were a vampire, Summit Entertainment provides the perfect piece of fiction with Twilight. Based on the wildly popular novel by Stephanie Meyer and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the PG-13 film tells of an immortal who falls for a teenage girl that transfers into his high school. Relative newcomers Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson anchor the love story and are in the process of becoming the Kate and Leo for today’s Facebook generation while Hardwicke is on the eve of becoming the first woman to direct a number one hit all year.

Box office expectations are sky high due to Hollywood’s most favorite of assets – the built-in fan base. But the issue, of course, is how much appeal does this relatively low cost $37M production have to those outside of the core audience of young females. There certainly are older women who have become true fans after reading the books, but will males go, and does the film even need guys at all in order to become a profitable franchise?

Female customers have flexed their muscles repeatedly at the box office over the past 12 months. Hits like Enchanted, Juno, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus, 27 Dresses, Baby Mama, Sex and the City, Mamma Mia, and High School Musical 3 were driven by female business and in some cases males were irrelevant. Summit has been highlighting the action scenes in Twilight in the trailer and commercials in hopes of getting teenage guys to think of it as an exciting vampire flick, instead of what the soon-to-be-blockbuster really is which is a romantic drama. If the teen date crowd takes interest, then theater cashiers better brace themselves.

November has been a vampire-friendly month. In 1992, Bram Stoker’s Dracula shocked the industry with what was then considered a massive $30.5M debut. Two years later, moviegoers lined up for Tom Cruise and rising star Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire which launched with $36.4M. Both hits set a new November opening weekend record when they debuted. This decade has seen a shift with the month’s three biggest bows coming from a certain Hogwarts wizard. But Twilight has become enough of an event film for the Gossip Girl crowd that it is sure to rival the opening weekend marks of those previous blood-sucker flicks, even when adjusted for today’s ticket prices. In fact, if Twilight breaks the $60M mark this weekend, it will be the first time in four and a half years that the box office generates openings north of that mark across three consecutive weekends. The last time was in the summer of 2004 with Shrek 2, The Day After Tomorrow, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Advance tickets have been selling at a feverish pace (thanks in part to a free iTunes remix with each purchase) as no girl wants to be sold out of the main showtimes that their friends will be at. It’s just uncool to show up to class on Monday being the one loser who didn’t see Twilight. Grosses will be very frontloaded with an explosive Friday that will include Thursday midnight shows which have been selling out left and right. Saturday should drop hard and despite the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday cushioning the blow, the second weekend fall should be substantial. Still, the short-term fireworks will be enough to give birth to a brand new franchise so this won’t be the last we hear from Bella and her vampire-loving ways. Flying into 3,386 theaters, Twilight might soar to an opening of $60M.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in Twilight

Disney counters with a vampire-less offering in the form of Bolt, an animated tale of the canine star of a hit TV show who escapes his Hollywood set and is accidentally shipped off to New York where he learns that the real world is very different from his scripted life. The PG-rated pic will be shown in 3D in the growing number of theaters equipped with the format. That should give a bit of a boost at the box office as it helps to make Bolt an event film for families looking for entertainment outside of the home that is worth the cash.

November has long been a hot month for toons. Grosses for recent non-sequel animation entries during this month include $38M for last year’s Bee Movie, $41.5M for 2006’s Bond-beating Happy Feet, and $40M for 2005’s Chicken Little. Don’t expect Bolt to match the $63M bows of the latest Madagascar flick from two weeks ago and last summer’s WALL-E since it is not a sequel or a Pixar masterpiece. Plus the third weekend take of Escape 2 Africa will take some business away from the same audience despite the fact that the marketplace should expand this weekend.

Starpower is another asset on the dog’s side as John Travolta and Miley Cyrus both supply voices and are aggressively being used in the marketing. Kids and parents will respond to those names. Add in the Disney brand name and next week’s Thanksgiving holiday and it’s easy to see that a strong ten-day start is guaranteed for the hero pooch. Landing in 3,651 locations, Bolt might open to around $42M.

John Travolta lends his voice to Bolt

Bond was on fire last weekend with Quantum of Solace which launched with a potent $67.5M. Midweek sales have been solid with $4.1M each on Monday and Tuesday. Don’t expect the same legs as Casino Royale‘s. That movie had better reviews, stronger word-of-mouth, and had Turkey Day to help out the sophomore frame. Moviegoers have been ok with the new 007 adventure, but are not exactly going nuts over it. A 50% drop could result giving Quantum of Solace about $34M for the weekend and roughly $116M after ten days.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa will face some major competition from Bolt which targets the same folks. Look for a 45% decline to around $19M pushing the cume to $140M for DreamWorks Animation and Paramount. Universal’s comedy Role Models has been warmly received by ticket buyers and competition isn’t too fierce. It will still be the major choice for younger guys. A 35% dip could result for a $7M take and a solid total of $48M.

LAST YEAR: With Thanksgiving falling on this frame, Disney vaulted to the top with its princess smash Enchanted which grabbed $34.4M over three days and a ravishing $49.1M over five days. The Amy Adams vehicle went on to collect $127.7M domestically and over $340M worldwide. Bowing in second place was Sony’s holiday pic This Christmas with $18M and a $26.3M five-day tally. A $49.1M final resulted. Former number one Beowulf dropped to third with $16.5M in its sophomore session. Debuting in fourth was Fox’s actioner Hitman with $13.2M and $21.1M across five days. The final take reached $39.7M. Bee Movie rounded out the top five with $11.8M in its fourth round. Opening a little lower on the charts was August Rush from Warner Bros. with $9.4M and MGM’s The Mist with $8.9M. The duo went on to close with $31.7M and $25.6M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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